Breastfeeding is an important public health measure.
Babies who are not breastfed are at higher risk of infection (gastrointestinal, respiratory and ear) and SIDS for example.
Mothers who don’t breastfeed are at higher risk of certain things such as breast and ovarian cancer.
Hence, leading health organisations recommend exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months and then breastfeeding to continue alongside appropriate complementary solid foods for 2 years and beyond.
Despite most mothers wanting to breastfeed, the rates of any and exclusive breastfeeding drop month by month after birth. Indeed, there are many more large-scale factors which need to be implemented or done better to help increase breastfeeding rates.
Where a baby sleeps is one factor that can influence how long a mother breastfeeds. In fact, research has shown that mothers who share a bed with their baby are more likely to breastfeed for longer.
Also, new research has found that mothers with the strongest breastfeeding intention are the most likely to bed-share with their babies. It was found that mothers who bed-share often are significantly more likely to be breastfeeding at 6 months than those who intermittently or rarely bed-share.
Sleeping With Your Baby Can Boost Breastfeeding
So how can sleeping with your baby boost breastfeeding?
Bed-Sharing Makes Breastfeeding At Night Easier
Feeding a baby at nighttime can be exhausting. For many breastfeeding mothers, sharing a bed with their babies makes nighttime breastfeeding easier and more convenient.
One study found that mothers committed to breastfeeding and who had experience with previous children, used bed sharing as a way to make frequent nighttime breastfeeds easier. These mothers often commented that when bed-sharing they hardly needed to wake up to attach their babies to the breast.
Many mothers also find that their babies settle more easily to sleep when they are close to them. This can help both mothers and babies get back to sleep more easily at night.
But what about the risk of SIDS when bed-sharing? Does bed-sharing increase the risk of SIDS?
Bed Sharing Increases The Risk Of SIDS Under Certain Circumstances
Bed sharing increases the risk of SIDS if parents drink alcohol, take recreational drugs or smoke, or if the baby is premature. In the absence of these hazardous conditions, the risk of SIDS due to bed sharing is minimal. Find out more: Bed-Sharing: The Facts from the Australian Breastfeeding Association.
Furthermore, not breastfeeding increases the risk of SIDS.
Not Breastfeeding Increases The Risk Of SIDS
There are several theories as to why not breastfeeding increases the risk of SIDS. These include:
- Formula fed babies are more difficult to rouse from sleep than breastfed babies at 2–3 months of age. This age bracket is within the 2–4 month period during which SIDS is most likely to occur
- Formula lacks important anti-infective factors
- Some babies who die from SIDS have had a minor infection in the days beforehand which was not enough alone to have caused death. Formula fed babies have a higher risk of infection than breastfed babies.
Breastfeeding is important for the health of mothers and babies. Breastfeeding and bed-sharing mutually support each other. Therefore, mothers need evidence based information on how to make bed-sharing as safe as possible.
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